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SEO Optimization: How to Rank Your Website in Search Engines?

Published on 14 May 2024 - Updated on 14 May 2024

By Andréa Bensaïd

Founder of Eskimoz. I support companies of all sizes in their digital acquisition strategy.

illustration seo

For any business today, having a website is essential. But that’s not enough: this website must also be accessible through search engines, especially the most popular one – Google. This is a necessary prerequisite to gain visibility, drive traffic, and convert visitors into leads. This is even more crucial as 68% of online experiences start on a search engine (BrightEdge).

This requires implementing an SEO strategy and, more importantly, mastering the right SEO levers based on the industry, business goals, and target audience. In this article, we introduce the fundamentals of website optimisation to effectively position your pages in Google’s search results.

SEO and How Google Works

To develop a real SEO strategy, it’s crucial to understand how Google operates. Specifically, it’s essential to know how its algorithm selects pages to display in search results.

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Google’s mission is to organise information to make it universally accessible and useful. But not just any information: information that is most relevant to users, likely to add value. Indeed, relevance and quality are the tools Google uses to assess content reliability – and these are central to SEO. To generate revenue (primarily from advertising), Google must encourage users to use its services as often as possible by providing them with answers that best meet their needs, whether organic (from SEO) or paid (from SEA).

To achieve this, Google uses crawling bots (or ‘crawlers’) that navigate the web and index both newly appeared and existing pages (looking for updated or changed content). These pages are then ranked based on several criteria and positioned in the SERP, the search results page, in an order determined by their ranking.

Three Steps to Display a Page in Google’s SERP

Three steps are necessary for a website to appear in Google’s search results:

  • Crawling, where bots explore the pages of the website and collect content, focusing on the relevance of information.
  • Indexing, during which the collected information is indexed in some sort of giant archive.
  • Ranking, which involves displaying relevant web pages based on the keywords entered by users during their search (the queries).

But it’s still necessary to make this website visible to Google and, more importantly, demonstrate its relevance for specific queries. Essentially, the more relevant a page is concerning a query, the more likely it is to be displayed high in the results – which is essential for generating traffic.

The Importance of SEO

Indeed, to understand the significance of SEO, keep two points in mind:

Firstly, the higher a page is placed in the SERP, the more clicks it generates. Notably, the first organic result gets the highest click-through rate (CTR), about 27% of all clicks generated from the SERP. This is illustrated by this graph:.

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  • Secondly, only the top ten results are mostly viewed (equivalent to the first page as displayed on a desktop computer), as most users ignore subsequent pages. In fact, less than 1% of users click on a second-page result.
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(Source of graphs: Backlinko.)

The goal of SEO is therefore to present the pages of your website so that Google can: 1) Easily integrate them into its index, and 2) find them relevant enough to position them in the top results.

What are the Pillars of SEO?

To achieve this, work on the three pillars of SEO: content (on-page), technical aspects, and popularity (off-page). Exploring these pillars will provide an opportunity to share some simple tips to kickstart your SEO strategy.

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(Source: builtvisible.com)

Content in SEO

In terms of SEO, the ‘content’ part refers to work on the pages themselves – hence why it’s also called ‘on-page’ optimisation, in contrast to ‘off-page’, which relates to the website’s popularity and authority online. This ‘content’ encompasses several SEO levers, each as essential as the next:  

  • The structure of the page and HTML tags, which make the page visible to the crawling bots. Indeed, these tags (title, meta description, Hn, etc.) are ‘read’ by the bots to understand the content and assess its relevance to user queries. This relevance is based on the used keywords and the overall quality of the content.
  • Choosing keywords for the page, based on the phrases targeted audiences type as part of your SEO strategy. For example, to display content for the query ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ the dedicated page on the website must include this phrase several times and integrate it into the tags. The idea is that each page focuses on a specific keyword but also develops a whole semantic field around it and aims to meet the initial search intent of the user.
  • Creating interesting and useful content for users. Over time, as its algorithm evolves, Google increasingly values content quality. It also focuses on user behaviour interacting with this content, whether they are satisfied or not (several indicators help analyse this behaviour and draw conclusions, such as bounce rate or total time spent on the website).
  • SEO of multimedia contents, such as images and videos. These contents are crucial, especially because users tend to primarily search for visuals and videos on Google.

Technical Aspects in SEO

The ‘technical’ part of SEO also happens ‘on-page’, but focuses on purely technical levers, used to improve user experience and aid bots in their crawling and indexing tasks. The main levers include:

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  • Optimising the website’s structure to simplify navigation for users, allowing them to find what they’re looking for more easily. The idea is to keep it simple and limit the number of ‘levels’ in the structure, so each page is accessible in a few clicks.
  • Improving page loading time and content, by tweaking the code and lightening the heaviest elements (like images).
  • Ensuring mobile compatibility, which involves making sure pages are visible on mobile devices and that content remains accessible regardless of the screen used. Several methods can be used: responsive design (a display that adapts to the type of screen), dynamic display, creation of a separate mobile site, etc.
  • Directing crawlers through the submission of a sitemap (a sort of ‘map’ indicating all the URLs of the website) and setting up a ‘robots.txt’ file (which provides directions to Googlebots about which pages to index or ignore). Subsequently, SEO may involve improving the crawl of bots, through a set of dedicated techniques: identifying pages that are little or not explored, removing unnecessary URLs, setting up redirects, etc.
  • Managing internal linking, which involves connecting as many of the website’s pages as possible in a coherent manner, to facilitate crawling (bots move from one page to another through links) and optimise user navigation, while increasing the time they spend on the website.
  • Reinforcing website security, particularly by adopting the HTTPS protocol and activating reassurance levers in certain key sectors (e-commerce, banking, and insurance, etc.), to guarantee users the protection of their personal data, including their payment information. While not an SEO lever per se, insecure websites are flagged as such by browsers, causing users to avoid accessing or staying on them – sending negative signals to Google.

Popularity in SEO

Finally, the notion of ‘popularity’, or ‘authority’, relates to how Google perceives the website based on various criteria. It is also referred to as ‘off-page’ SEO as the actions involved no longer concern the website itself and its contents but focus on working on the website’s and the business’s (or brand’s) renown online. In essence, it involves:

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  • Working on the website’s netlinking, that is, seeking to obtain as many incoming links (backlinks) as possible, published on third-party pages. This SEO lever is still considered one of the most important. It operates on a simple principle: the more links a website receives, posted on authoritative websites, the more ‘popular’ it is in Google’s eyes – who use it as ‘proof’ that the website in question is favoured by the community since it refers to it. The issue of backlinks is extremely complex, so remember this: a good SEO strategy must absolutely incorporate the netlinking lever to produce the best results.
  • Developing online notoriety, whether by enhancing the user experience (user behaviour is scrutinised by Google to assess a website’s quality) and/or by expanding its web presence (managing a Google business listing, presence on social networks, publishing positive customer reviews, etc.).

SEO Considerations Depending on Your Website’s Specifics

In addition to these three pillars, an effective SEO strategy must consider specific features related to the type of website, the company’s activity, or the target audience.  

  • The type of website: a digital showroom with four or five pages and an e-commerce platform displaying over 5,000 pages will not be optimised in the same way. In the latter case, the proliferation of content (category pages, product sheets, etc.) requires developing a dedicated SEO strategy, with thorough work on keyword selection to prevent pages from cannibalising each other in pursuit of the best spots in the SERP.
  • The company’s activity: similarly, SEO work varies entirely depending on the industry and customers’ purchasing journey specifics. In this regard, there are differences in content management between a B2C and a B2B website.
  • The targeted audience: the geographical area plays a crucial role in SEO. For example, a local business must optimise its website to primarily target nearby customers (with a host of dedicated local SEO levers), while an international company must work to generate traffic in multiple countries, adapting the structure of its website and opting for linguistic localisation of its pages.

In conclusion, optimising a website for SEO involves using a wide range of levers (divided among three fundamental pillars) and considering your company’s specific features. That’s not all: once your SEO strategy is in place, it is crucial to continuously optimise it. First, by regularly measuring its performance (monitoring positions in the SERP, user behaviour, traffic, and conversion evolution), and then by adapting SEO actions to changing needs. Not to forget, keeping up with the numerous changes in Google’s algorithm!

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